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Connecticut Economic Digest: September 1998 issue
The Torrington Area: A Diamond In The Rough | Job Fairs: For Employers And Jobseekers | Industry Clusters | Housing Update | Connecticut Economy Continues To Hum A Happy Refrain

The Torrington Area: A Diamond In The Rough
By Joseph Slepski, Research Analyst

Nestled in the northwestern part of the State, the Torrington Labor Market Area spans fourteen towns that spread out over 572 square miles. This quaintness is emphasized by the fact that just two percent of the State's population reside in the Area.

As sparsely populated as it is, however, the Torrington Labor Market Area has many unique and interesting characteristics. Only two percent of all jobs statewide are located in the Area. This means that most residents work outside of the Area. According to the 1990 Census over one third of the Area's residents commuted at least thirty minutes each way to their place of employment. Many of these people are working in the Hartford area with increasingly larger numbers heading into Fairfield County and also New York. With so many people working outside the Labor Market Area, Torrington attracts people by factors other than the promise of a job or a short commute to work. The way of life is instead its main appeal.

Population

As of 1996, 70,120 people were residing in the Torrington Area. Unlike other areas which experienced a drop in population as the recession began and a rebound as the economy began to improve, the Torrington Labor Market Area has had a remarkably stable population base. In the boom times of the late eighties, through the recovery of the mid-nineties, Area population has been virtually unchanged, its level between 68,600 to 70,120. Even more proof of a stable population base is the fact that projections show that the area population is expected to increase by just two percent by the beginning of the twenty-first century. The Area, however, did follow the statewide trend when it came to the real estate market. From a median sales price of $175,000 ten years ago, this average went down by almost $50,000 before going up to approximately $160,000.

Economy

The Area unemployment rate also bore similarities with the State. In 1988, the Area unemployment rate went down to a low of two percent of the labor force. Four years later this number shot up to nine percent before beginning a downward trend that reached 2.7 percent in mid-1998. Employment in the Torrington Labor Market Area reached a high of 28,900 in June 1989. Three years later, 2,300 of these jobs had been lost. Half of these were factory jobs, with construction, trade and service positions also being eliminated. As of mid-1997, all of these jobs had been regained. Construction, trade and service industries have led the recovery, while Area factories have begun hiring again during the last two years.

Quality Of Life

While the economy of the Area has improved, its primary attraction is the quality of life. Torrington houses no fewer than eleven museums along with countless numbers of public libraries. The historic Warner Theater, which was built in the early twenties, was completely renovated three years ago and now shows theatrical productions along with popular feature films.

The Area also houses the Lime Rock Race Track along with the Skip Barber Racing School. Every Memorial Day, hundreds of thousands of spectators come to watch the best auto racing in the world, featuring not only the best drivers but also world famous celebrities. Other races occur at the track throughout the summer and early fall.

When the City of Torrington renovated Fussenich Field two years ago, the idea was to try to entice professional baseball to come to the city. The cost of this proved to be prohibitive, however, so the City instead turned to the New England Collegiate Baseball League. The result was the Torrington Twisters, who drew over 100,000 fans last summer to watch baseball at affordable prices, without any beer or other alcoholic beverages being sold. Torrington was also one of the first cities in the state to hold a First Night celebration. Every year on December 31, tens of thousands of families descend upon Torrington for a safe, alcohol-free New Year's Eve gala.

Location, Location, Location

Location is also an advantage for the Area. Hartford is accessible via Route 44, while both Route 8 and Interstate Route 84 lead to Fairfield County and New York City. The Area itself borders New York State, while the Berkshires in Massachusetts are nearby. Many celebrities and executives who work in New York choose to live in the Torrington Area as real estate prices are lower than in Fairfield County, while the rural setting of the Area gives one the feel of living in the country.

A Diamond In The Rough

Three years ago, a group consisting of entertainers, athletes, business leaders and television network executives who live in the Area bought two local radio stations. With a show of commitment such as this, along with location and family oriented activities, it might be hard to keep this little diamond in the rough a secret much longer.


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Job Fairs: For Employers And Jobseekers
By Joseph Slepski, Research Analyst

With the economy moving along at a brisk pace, the number of people who are out of a job is at a lower level. When this occurs, employers have a harder time finding qualified applicants for their positions. Companies looking for workers put ads in the newspapers, offer cash bonuses and other inducements, and participate at various employment and trade shows at a cost of hundreds of dollars. Although the unemployment rate might be at a relatively low level, there are still people out there who are looking for a first job, a new job, or a better job. The key then is to match employers who need to fill jobs with people looking for them. The Connecticut Department of Labor serves not only jobseekers but businesses as well. With this mission in mind, the Department of Labor embarked on a plan to match people looking for work with companies that are seeking to hire qualified individuals in a way that would augment traditional and electronic means, such as the Job Bank and Talent Bank.

In the summer of 1997, the Old Saybrook Chamber of Commerce approached the Labor Department with the possibility of hosting a Job Fair where local employers could meet with prospective employees. On October 1, 1997 at the Dock and Dine restaurant in Old Saybrook, the local Chamber of Commerce and the Connecticut Department of Labor hosted a Job Fair. Thirty companies signed up for this event and approximately 300 people attended. Employers were greatly satisfied with the turnout as they were able to identify numerous qualified applicants and the attendees were happy too, as several people found jobs on the spot. This event was so successful that on December 16, 1997 the Department along with the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce hosted another Job Fair at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell. Despite the approaching holiday season, another thirty companies signed up and over 200 people attended.

With the success of these two Job Fairs, other local groups and organizations began working with the Labor Department and the Office of Research to organize more functions like these. In March 1998, the Labor Department cohosted a Job Fair in New Haven with United States Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro. Over sixty companies signed up and close to 800 people attended this event at the New Haven Lawn Club. Also, this past winter a major shoreline employer shut its doors leaving hundreds of people jobless. The Old Saybrook Chamber of Commerce along with the Labor Department decided to sponsor another Job Fair. Despite having only a two-week period to organize and publicize this event, twentyfive companies participated and approximately 200 people attended. In April, the Department continued an annual event by cohosting a Job Fair along with Manchester Community-Technical College. Close to 1,000 jobseekers and eighty companies attended this event on a Saturday in the spring.

In view of the success of these events and in a continuing effort to serve the needs of both workers and companies, Governor Rowland proclaimed June 1998 to be Jobs Month in Connecticut. In accordance with this, Connecticut Works, a partnership of the Department of Labor, local Regional Work Force Development Boards, local businesses and community based organizations, hosted Job Fairs in Waterbury, Norwich, Norwalk and Danbury. In addition to these, the Department participated in Job Fairs in Hartford and Danielson. Each one of these Job Fairs hosted at least sixty companies and attendance ranged between 400- 500. Surveys taken during these fairs indicate that over ninety percent of the companies that signed up were satisfied, and over 97 percent of prospective jobseekers were also satisfied, with nearly all of these people indicating they would return to any future event hosted by the Department.

The companies that sign up for these Job Fairs are representative of all different industries and are looking for individuals who are trained in health care, technical, computer related, managerial, clerical, construction, sales and manufacturing skills. The jobseekers come from a variety of backgrounds. Ranging in years from teens to senior citizens, some are college graduates just entering the workforce; others are currently employed but seeking a different position; some are looking for parttime work; still others have experienced a layoff due to downsizing. They have been employed in managerial, professional and technical; sales and retail; production; clerical and administrative; and service occupations.

The success of these events has led to more Job Fairs being scheduled. From the last week of September until the last week of October, area Job Fairs are scheduled for Torrington, Middlesex County, Hartford, New Haven and New Britain. The Labor Department handles employer registrations and all advertising for each event. Ads are placed in the newspapers and are also aired on the local radio and public access television stations. In addition, Job Fair representatives will visit local schools, libraries, and commercial establishments in each community to publicize the event.

Companies are urged to register as soon as possible as space is limited and some companies have been turned away in the past. Each employer is provided with a six to eight foot banquet table and a tablecloth. Electrical hookups are available and coffee and danish are also provided. Companies can bring a sign or banner identifying themselves along with any other pertinent literature and job applications.

Jobseekers are advised to dress professionally as companies will be interviewing, and in some cases hiring, on the spot. Applicants are also advised to bring at least twenty copies of their resumes. As the dates of these Job Fairs approach, the local newspapers will be running announcements concerning the time, dates and locations.

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Industry Clusters
"Cluster-Based" Exports Proposed

The DECD's Industry Cluster/ International Division was recently represented at the Council of State Governments/ Eastern Regional Conference (CSG/ERC). The Eastern Regional Conference includes the 10 Mid-Atantic and New England States from Delaware to Maine, plus Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Quebec. More than 800 legislators and other officials convened last month in Wilmington, Delaware on issues such as school financing, electric deregulation, workforce and economic development.

The primary purpose of the DECD's invited attendance was regional cooperation in export promotion. A joint-state task force meeting looked at ways the region could increase exports to strengthen the regional export economy. A draft report prepared for the Council was presented and indicated that the region was lagging the U.S. Connecticut's own first-quarter 1998 exports declined 0.3 percent compared with the same quarter in 1997. A regional task force is now seeking to identify three industries at the three-digit Standard Industry Classification (SIC) level for promotion. Among targeted and/or potential export industries could be medical devices (SIC 384), electronic components (SIC 367), or fabricated metals (SIC 346).

A "cluster-based" approach to regional export promotion was proposed and discussed. The feasibility of local and regional videoconferences to facilitate business-to-business contact by small and medium-sized businesses with foreign markets is being planned.

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Housing Update
July Housing Permits Increase 48.9%

Commissioner James F. Abromaitis of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development announced that Connecticut communities authorized 1,297 new housing units in July 1998, a 48.9 percent increase compared to July of 1997 when 871 were authorized.

The Department further indicated that the 1,297 units permitted in July 1998 represent an increase of 7.8 percent from the 1,203 units permitted in June 1998. The year-to-date permits are up 20.5 percent, from 5,487 through July 1997, to 6,610 through July 1998.

"A 20.5 percent increase through seven months of 1998 is remarkable coming after a 1997 that recorded the highest permit growth in a decade," Commissioner Abromaitis said. "Connecticut's economy continues to be strong, and the housing sector reflects that overall strength."

Reports from municipal officials throughout the state indicate that Fairfield County with 175.4 percent showed the greatest percentage increase in July compared to the same month a year ago. Hartford County followed with a 39.6 percent increase.

Fairfield County documented the largest number of new, authorized units in July with 548. Hartford County followed with 261 units and New Haven County had 170 units. Danbury led all Connecticut communities with 282 units, followed by Brookfield with 97 and Manchester with 69.

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Connecticut Economy Continues To Hum A Happy Refrain

The Connecticut coincident and leading employment indexes provide on-going evidence that the Connecticut economy should continue to sing an upbeat, expansionary song. A downturn in the leading index, that is, a reversal of direction of movement for at least three consecutive months, generally precedes a change in the direction of the economy by six months to a year. We do not see any evidence suggesting that the leading index will soon croon a dour, recessionary tune. As a result, we see continued expansion of the Connecticut economy, at least well into 1999.

The coincident index, a barometer of current employment activity, reached another new peak with the release of (preliminary) June data. As mentioned in this space in July, some analysts see the labor force, which has been shrinking throughout much of the 1990s, as a potential barrier to continued growth in Connecticut. In fact, labor markets in other parts of the country are even tighter than they are in Connecticut. Thus, near-term events in other states may provide some signal as to Connecticut's shortterm future. The Summer 1998 issue of The Connecticut Economy continues its discussion of this issue. (See "Are Labor Shortages Going to Kill the Expansion?" by Will McEachern)

The leading index, a barometer of future employment activity, backed off slightly from its new peak in May with the release of (preliminary) June data. An increase in the initial claims for unemployment insurance was the major cause of the slight decline in the leading index. The other four components of this index moved in the positive direction. With all this said, it behooves us to keep a close watch on future movements in the leading index as they will signal future movements in the Connecticut economy.

In summary, the coincident employment index rose from 88.7 in June 1997 to 95.3 in June 1998. All four index components continue to point in a positive direction on a year-over-year basis with higher nonfarm employment, higher total employment, a lower insured unemployment rate, and a lower total unemployment rate.

The leading employment index rose from 90.0 in June 1997 to 91.4 in June 1998. Four of the five index components sent positive signals on a year-over-year basis with a lower short-duration (less than 15 weeks) unemployment rate, higher Hartford help-wanted advertising, higher total housing permits, and a longer average work week of manufacturing production workers. The other component sent a negative signal on a year-over-year basis with higher initial claims for unemployment insurance and from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

SOURCE: Connecticut Center for or Economic Analysis, University of Connecticut. Developed by Pami Dua [Economic Cycle Research Institute; NY,NY] and Stephen M. Miller [(860) 486-3853, Storrs Campus]. Campus]. Kathryn E. Parr and Hulya Varol [(860) 486-3022, Storrs Campus] provided research support.

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Published by the Connecticut Department of Labor, Office of Research
Last Updated: October 15, 2002